The Columbus Dispatch recently featured three College of Dentistry faculty members as oral health experts whose comments were showcased in articles published on December 17 and 30, in the Dispatch's “To Your Health” series that focused most recently on oral health care in Ohio.
Pediatric dentistry professors Paul Casamassimo and Dennis McTigue spoke about the relationship between poverty, poor diet, and resulting tooth decay in children. Dr. McTigue, who serves as a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, was quoted in the December 30 article titled, "Dental Issues Have Big Effects in Poor Kids."
Dr. McTigue drew the connection between unhealthy diets and tooth decay, especially in the poorest sections of Ohio where there are few grocery stores that stock healthful foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables that are necessary for good general and oral health. "Those places [quick-stop markets] tend to sell processed, high-fat and high-carbohydrate foods. When accessing healthy foods is difficult, families end up eating the high-carb foods that cause obesity and cavities." Dr. Casamassimo added, "We're talking about this hot spot of tooth decay in Ohio that is the result of many things -- social deprivation, lack of fluoride, lack of access to care, and just general poverty."
Dentistry's Dean Patrick Lloyd also was quoted in two articles, "Stopping the Decay," and "Fear of Loan Debt Grows for Dentists, Doctors," both of which provided information about dental students' educational debts and the long-term impact this has on the profession as newly graduated dentists are forced to make career choices that are based on their ability to repay massive student loan debts.
Lloyd, who speaks frequently about dental students' debts that typically reach $195,000 or more for four years of dental education, is an advocate of state and federal loan forgiveness programs that allow health care professionals to reduce a percentage of their educational debts by working in rural and inner city communities where physicians and dentists are most needed. In the State of Ohio, there are a number of Appalachian counties that have few practicing dentists, and the impact of that lack of access to care has a profound effect on the oral health of the local population.
Speaking about loan debts that may prevent dentists from taking jobs in the public health sector and in communities where there is a great need for medical professionals is a concern Lloyd voices frequently. "No one's talking about who's going to finance health education," he said. "Right now, it's shouldered by the individual practitioner."
"I'm glad these issues are coming to light," Lloyd said. "These are obstacles that can be overcome, but we need to first recognize the problems, then address them in pragmatic ways that benefit our newly graduated health care providers and the patients here in Ohio who need the help that only they can give."